Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk Trio


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
July 30th, 2013 | 21 replies


Release Date: 1954 | Tracklist


Thelonious Monk's discography is a nightmare for jazz archivists and casual listeners alike, so let me first parse this one out as best I can. The harmlessly titled Thelonious Monk Trio is Monk's first studio album proper, coming off the heels of his two Genius of Modern Music compilations (Volume One released in '51, Volume Two a year later) for Blue Note. It's been re-released countless times--sometimes as Monk's Mood, but usually with its original 1954 title intact--on different formats, once in a while with its tracklist shuffled. (The original order, and my favorite, opens with “Little Rootie Tootie”.)

All that said, this album is well worth seeking out, regardless of the form in which you find it. Its historical interest for the devoted Monk fan is, of course, off the charts--it contains the first recorded renditions of the eternal “Blue Monk” as well as “Bemsha Swing”--but its true merit lies in the performance and composition of the man behind it, who is brought to the fore as a personality in ways not matched even on his later and more famous masterpieces. That's partly why I love “Little Rootie Tootie” as the opener; the bleating, dissonant chords we first hear serve as a fitting introduction to an album all about Monk's idiosyncrasies. The track is pure Thelonious, its mindbending melodies (try to hum along!) propped up with deeply rooted, yet equally idiosyncratic, drumming by Art Blakey. “Bye-Ya,” with Max Roach on drums, is even better. Though Roach's creative tick-tack percussion may err on the heavy side for me, Monk carries it with one of the best and bounciest melodies he ever wrote--and even if not up your alley, the song is over in less than three minutes and followed by the equally great and peculiar “Monk's Dream”.

Compared with knottier LPs like 1957's Brilliant Corners (five tracks in 42 minutes), Thelonious Monk Trio could be considered Monk's “pop” album, at a lean 35 minutes and with only one cut extending past the four-minute mark. Indeed, even when Monk gets nutty, as on the brutally virtuosic “Trinkle, Tinkle,” the album's appeal lies not in his “sabotage” of popular music but his ability to turn it into something invigoratingly weird, two approaches often conflated when looking back on the work of an inventive musician. The album is catchy and brisk almost in spite of itself, Monk always seeming to right his own course when the proceedings get out of hand, as they often do. This means that Thelonious Monk Trio is in essence a sort of tightrope act, a painstaking balance between not only “pop” and “experimental” but between the odd and the comforting, the unhinged and the stable. Monk may have gone on to record more ambitious albums--perhaps even better ones--but never would he perfect that balance quite like he does here.



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4.5
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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2013


15070 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

cover should be comin in soon i think idk

dimsim3478
July 29th 2013


5332 Comments


Nice job. Good to see the site picking up slightly in jazz coverance.

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YourDarkAffected
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2013


1684 Comments


Cool to see a review of something so old too

Irving
Staff Reviewer
July 30th 2013


7318 Comments


Released in 1954?!?!?! Wow lol.

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sideburndude
July 30th 2013


2782 Comments


Jazz reviews are always appreciated, I have only heard three Monk albums so far, will look into this one

InbredJed
July 30th 2013


6101 Comments


Thanks for reviewing, will check

GiaNXGX
July 30th 2013


4867 Comments


best staff

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 30th 2013


10362 Comments


Wonderful job, man.

ButteryBiscuitBass
July 30th 2013


10171 Comments


Massive POS'd.

Any chance of someone with some writing skill doing Solo Monk?

wabbit
July 30th 2013


7020 Comments


m/


he's the Off Minor of jazz

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 30th 2013


15070 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm not setting any goals for myself (looool) but I might do some more Monks in the future in between reviews from this year

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
July 31st 2013


28789 Comments


fuck you robertsona. like the white community doesn't have enough going for it?? Now you're going to claim jazz for both archivists (old fucking white assholes) and casual listeners (pretentious college aged white douchebags)???

young white men like you are raised with so much privilege and so many opportunities that of fucking course you have no idea about what it means to have self-control. the white community needs to get serious and figure out how to deal with your shit because you're the fucking worst. you are an instrument of a systematic pattern of pop culture violence.

EaglesBecomeVultures
July 31st 2013


5269 Comments


lol

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wabbit
July 31st 2013


7020 Comments


fuck you're the best

JS19
July 31st 2013


4372 Comments


Damn good review. Might have to have a listen to this

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robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 31st 2013


15070 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

theacademy speaks the truth

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2013


17944 Comments


he's the Off Minor of jazz



this is the worst thing i've read ever

BeardedTurpulence
August 6th 2013


10 Comments


Serious props for tackling this

jefflebowski
August 10th 2013


8257 Comments


great review, album is pretty drastically different from brilliant corners and the like but it's still got that distinctive monk flavour

KILL
August 11th 2013


72131 Comments


well i guess i should check this, cant listen to brilliant corners forever!

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